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Berlin conference of agriculture ministers at the GFFA sends a strong signal for the right to food
The conference of agriculture ministers was held in the context of the GFFA in Berlin/Germany in January. The final communique passed by the agriculture ministers from 61 nations gives food for thought. From the angle of a wide range of German civil society actors, it sets new standards for clarity and focus regarding the right to food and provides a strong impulse for the international debate marking the 20th anniversary of the Voluntary Guidelines for the Right to Food. This impulse now has to be taken advantage of with view to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Committee on World Food Security (CFS).
The right to food means focusing on strengthening vulnerable groups
The final communiqué clearly shows that strengthening vulnerable groups is one of the priority issues. Thus the communiqué creates a new context to make the right to food a new, central point of reference in the FAO and the other Rome-based UN organisations.
During the last two years, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) has also demonstrated the steps required to achieve this in an internal reorganisation of its international department and its event formats, such as the GFFA and Policies against Hunger. The right to food is no longer a concept evolving alongside others but is the central approach to considerations and efforts regarding action to eliminate hunger and improve international cooperation. This new seriousness is reflected in a special department for the right to food at the BMEL, involving the La Via Campesina Youth in the GFFA, new cooperation with Brazil and the Brazilian food council (the most inclusive body to involve vulnerable groups in political decision-making at national level world-wide), and a determined strengthening of CFS, especially also with CFS’ new Chair Nosipho Nausca-Jean Jezile.
Now it’s up to the ministries
Within its international scope, the BMEL has achieved much and given a strong impulse to not only celebrate 20 years of guidelines for the right to food but to also take advantage of the occasion to step up action. And given what is still just below 800 million people going hungry and a further 2.4 billion suffering malnutrition, this is really necessary, too. The right to food must not remain the human right which is violated most of all.
In this anniversary year, there must be no debates over cuts in development and humanitarian aid. Rather, the focus has to be on increasing aid money and a better intermeshing of these fields with the right to food and the CFS resolutions. This is where the Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) come in to take action and provide finance on the basis which has been formed. This applies in particular vis-à-vis the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which are their responsibility. Coherence vis-à-vis the right to food, relating to CFS resolutions and the human rights-based involvement of vulnerable groups have to be strengthened.
Access to finance continues to be a central topic. Usually, vulnerable groups only have indirect and insufficient access to finance. This is also because many governments are not taking action for these groups in the sense of good governance but serving elite groups. This has to be remedied by adapting structures among funds such as the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) in a manner giving vulnerable groups a greater say in matters concerning access to and the allocation of finance. Here, as a major donor, the BMZ could play a crucial role regarding the right to food in the reform of the GAFSP.
The three Rio Conventions
But other ministries, including the Federal Chancellery, could make a greater contribution in 2024. This year, all three Rio Conventions, addressing biodiversity, climate and desertification, are holding conferences. All three of them are making important contributions to achieving the right to food. In this sense, in the anniversary year of the Voluntary Guidelines for the Right to Food, these Guidelines ought to be centrally enshrined in in the Conventions, and cooperation with the CFS ought to be systematically strengthened. Here, coherence in the sense of the right to food is the crucial catchword.
Achieving the right to food requires more coherence
Greater coherence is needed in the BMEL between national, European and international processes, in the German Federal Government, in the European Union and, last but not least, in the international community. One thing that the BMEL clearly demonstrated both before and during the GFFA is that at international level, its policy fields are acting in concert. In processes concerning European and German agricultural and food policy, considering the right to food and CFS products is still in its infancy.
Just how strong such considerations are will be reflected, as an intermediate step, by the Policies against Hunger Conference in June 2024. One tricky issue will be whether, for the first time, the BMEL can succeed in formulating a vision for the next round of European agricultural reform policies conceived from the angle of the right to hunger, the various CFS resolutions and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants.
The reform of the EU Seed Directive offers an initial opportunity to “practise” this coherence. Establishing and strengthening peasants’ rights here would be an important signal regarding the right to food and human rights.
Campaigning for the right to food always means combating inequality as well
The GFFA panel organised by Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung in Berlin also showed that achieving the right to food always also means overcoming inequality – inequality between those suffering hunger and those who are not hungry, at a wide range of levels such as gender equality, access to land, access to health systems and education, but also participating in decision-making. In a world in which strongly growing inequality is increasingly driving a wedge between people and creating conflicts, campaigning for the right to food is more important than ever.